Getting Players to Practice with Intensity
1. Look underneath - The first step in addressing lack of intensity is to ask ‘why?’ Are the athletes especially fatigued? Burnt out? Extremely nervous? Ask a couple of team leaders what is going on.
2. Teach your athletes what practice intensity means - Many athletes, especially younger ones, think they are practicing hard without realizing they are only going half speed. Tell your athletes your definition of intensity. Then ask them to remember a practice in which they went as hard as they could and did a great job from beginning to end. Tell them that is their ‘bar’ for practice intensity. Their job is to try to get close to that bar every day.
3. Have your athlete’s rate and be responsible for their own intensity - Once your athletes have defined their own ‘personal best’ practice intensity, have them assign that level of intensity a ‘10′ on a scale of 1 to 10. Then, tell your athletes you expect them to always practice at a level of 8 or above on their personal intensity scale. When practice begins to drag, stop the action, let them catch their breath, and ask them to rate themselves on their personal scale. Remind them you need them to practice at level eight or above. Then get started again.
4. Set daily goals as performance targets - Goals keep our athletes focused and give them a sense of achievement. Set daily goals for each practice session in terms of effort (e.g. we want to go hard and stay focused), and in terms of accomplishment (e.g. we want to learn the 2-3 zone). Periodically remind them of their progress on each goal.
5. Use firm time periods - Break up practice into a series of fixed time periods (e.g. individual drill ten minutes, small group drill 20 minutes, scrimmage 20 minutes, etc). Ask your athletes to go hard for each entire period, one period at a time. And be sure to stick to your timetable. Your athletes will show more energy and confidence in trying to achieve intensity for these shorter periods of time.
6. Use simulations and games - Where appropriate, use simulations and games to make your coaching points. For example, use the clock, call out game situations, and keep score to create a game-like environment for your drills. Athletes usually respond more enthusiastically to these kinds of activities as opposed to less interesting repetitive tasks.
7. Keep an ‘intensity score’ - Use a portable white board or other prop to periodically score your athletes on their intensity. For example, you could score them on a scale of 1 to 10, where 8 to 10 is high intensity 5 to 7 is moderate intensity, and 1 to 4 is low intensity. Keep the scoreboard visible so they can look over and see how they are doing. If they begin to drop their intensity score, challenge them to get their score back up to the 8 to 10 range - and let them know when they do!
Editor’s Note: Thank you to Elevating Athletes for this article.
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